WASHINGTON--White House senior advisor David Plouffe, President Obama's 2008 campaign manager, told me Tuesday the administration was not blindsided by the Republicans linking deep spending cuts to a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
Raising the ceiling has been fairly routine in the past for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush--never getting to the crisis point we seem to be at now, with an Aug. 2 default deadline brewing. Republicans, pushed by Tea Party anti-spending hardliners, seized on the debt ceiling vote as an opportunity to force deep spending cuts.
Plouffe said the Obama team had seen the linkage coming and did not object--because the president had long been interested in reducing the deficit.
He also was confident there would be a deal.
"I think people should be confident that at the end of the day, there will be a compromise reached to make sure we, A, don't default; B, get a significant down payment in terms of deficit reduction; and then C, understand we still have a lot of work to do -- because this is a unique moment in Washington," Plouffe said.
I questioned Plouffe during a conference call with print reporters from Detroit; Columbus, Oh.; St. Petersburg, Fl.; Minneapolis and Dallas.
"It's been clear really for the whole year that the debt limit was going to be something that there was going to be a lot of focus on," Plouffe said.
"I think that the President decided that reducing the deficit, sort of separate and apart from the debt limit, was something he was interested in pursuing. Obviously, as he mentioned last night, because of the recession, because of some of the emergency measures we had to take, we had to do some additional spending in his first two years. But you covered him closely in 2008 -- making sure the country lives within its means, reduce its debts in a smart way is something we talked about just about every day during that campaign."
"So this is an opportunity to try and do something. The real tragedy is obviously the negotiations we were having with Speaker Boehner where we found an enormous amount of common ground still would have been the best pathway forward for the country.
"Ultimately, it might have been the easiest thing to pass in Congress. ...Unfortunately -- now, that doesn't mean that a lot of the things we talked about with Speaker Boehner -- they're actually going to be part of whatever short-term -- whatever we pass over the next week to make sure that the debt limit gets extended into 2013 and there's a good down payment on deficit reduction -- a lot of those items are going to flow out of the discussions we had with Speaker Boehner and the talks the Vice President had led.
"And obviously, ultimately, whatever -- next year, whatever entitlement reform, tax reform we can get achieved, a lot of that is going to be based on the work that the White House did."